Elizabeth Simpson was born on the 15th of October, 1753, at Standingfield, near Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, about thirty miles outside of London, one of six daughters and two sons born to John and Mary Rushbrook Simpson. By all accounts, the Simpson family farm was a small one, but the family prospered and held a position of respect in the community. They entertained a large circle of friends and their home served as “the gathering place of the local society.” i They were on good terms with the local gentry, attending Mass at a small Roman Catholic chapel in Coldham Hall, the home of the Gage family.ii
Mrs. Simpson encouraged her daughters to read novels and plays, and the family often attended plays at a small theater in nearby Bury, where Elizabeth developed a fascination with the theater.iii
At the age of eighteen, she set out for London, determined to seek a position with one of the acting companies there. Although she called on friends and acquaintances in London, hoping they could offer some assistance, her first week there was a bitter disappointment. After several unsuccessful interviews, she realized that both her lack of experience and her speech impediment would make it difficult for her to find a position.
Shortly after her arrival in London, she married Joseph Inchbald, whom she had met on a previous visit to the city. Inchbald, who was Roman Catholic, was also nineteen years her senior and already an established actor and a member of the Norwich Company. It was under his coaching that she would overcome her speech impediment, and her first acting experience came in 1772 in Bristol, where she played the part of Cordelia and he played the part of ...
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...ctress. She fought against over whelming odds: a speech impediment that hampered her stage career and her lack of formal education, and evolved as an exemplary playwright and novelist, writing many successful plays for London theaters. Her fortitude and determination serve as an example for all women.
Fifes, Eva. Sex and Subterfuge: Women Writers to 1850. New York, Persea, 1982.
Jenkins, Annibel. I’ll Tell You What: The Life of Elizabeth Inchbald. Lexington, Kentucky: UP of K, 2003.
ii Jenkins, Annibel, I’ll Tell You What: The Life of Elizabeth Inchbald. (Lexington, Kentucky: UP of K, 2003), 7.
ii Jenkins, 9.
iii Jenkins, 8.
iv Jenkins, 14.
v Fifes, Eva, Sex and Subterfuge: Women Writers to 1850. (New York, Persea, 1982), 11.